Feature: A wide-ranging discussion with Doug Sharpe, President of the Canada Family Action Council, on the state of Christian political involvement in Canada today, particularly in the context of the Conservative Party of Canada leadership race.
Porn addressed in Manitoba Legislature – MLA’s are set to debate a Private Member’s Resolution today on restricting youth access to online porn. We speak with the Resolution’s sponsor.
Bill C-16 protest – An unusual response to a protest against a church in New Westminster, BC, which has voiced opposition to Ottawa’s transgender legislation.
Oosterhoff wins again – Sam Oosterhoff has won the right to represent the PC Party of Ontario in a new constituency in the Niagara region.
More pushback on Bill 10 – Donna Trimble from Parents for Choice in Education on the latest developments in the Alberta education controversy.
The Manitoba legislature is set to debate a Private Members Resolution today. This resolution – which is similar in process to a Private Member’s Motion in Ottawa – is sponsored by James Teitsma, the MLA for the Radisson constituency in the east end of Winnipeg. It deals with the issue of online pornography, and calls on the Legislature to “condemn the ease of access children and youth have to violent and degrading content in sexual explicit material online and… call on the Federal Government to pass legislation requiring meaningful age verification on adult web content.” Teitsma says this is about creating a united front across party lines that they don’t want the federal government “just to study this issue; we want them to take concrete action.”
The resolution mirrors a motion presented in Ottawa late last year by Peace River/Westlock MP Arnold Viersen, which resulted in the House of Commons Health Committee launching a study into the issue. Teitsma is hoping that this idea catches on across the country. “While the Committee for Public Health is studying this issue as they were required by Motion 47, we’re going to be able to create a national consensus around the need for concrete action.”
We’ll let you know next week whether the resolution passed in Manitoba.
There was an unusual scene in New Westminster, BC earlier this month. It happened on Sunday, March 5th, when a group of people decided to protest outside the New West Community Church, a church that has been tied to the Woman Means Something campaign we reported on a few weeks ago. It’s a campaign against Bill C-16, the law that would add gender identity and gender expression to the prohibited grounds for discrimination under the Canada Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code.
Paul Dirks is the pastor of that church. He says when they heard that the protestors were coming, they decided to put out the welcome mat, providing coffee, donuts, chairs, and canopies to shelter the demonstrators from the elements. The move got mixed reactions. “At first,” Dirks says, “most of the protestors did not want to come to our side of the street.” However, he tried to make himself available to speak to protestors and answers their concerns and questions. Initially they declined, but eventually, a woman knocked on the door of the church saying she wanted to talk, so he went outside. “The woman who came to get me – I greatly respect her and her boldness to do that – we’re actually still having some good conversation.” Dirks says fundamentally, this was about showing that disagreement doesn’t have to result in confrontation. “People are often going to get involved in adversarial kinds of relationships when it comes to things that they have strong convictions about, and we want to present the way of Christ, which is reaching out to others even when we have strong disagreements. This is just the kingdom ethic of Christ, (and it’s) what we want to do.”
The youngest MPP in Ontario history will be running again. Sam Oosterhoff won a nomination race in the newly formed Niagara West riding last week. He was challenged in the contest by someone who ran against him in the nomination for a by-election in his current riding late last year. “One of the challengers from that nomination… said he had concerns about my faith; that I came from a very insular group within the riding,” Oosterhoff says. “But there were a lot of great people who came out, also from the churches, and they came and supported me.”
Oosterhoff also says he’s managed to dispel some concerns about presence in the legislature, although not everyone has been convinced. “There are concerns from perhaps some people on the far left within the Legislature who have no respect for anyone who holds even a slight inkling of a different inclination from their monolithic left-wing monologue, but at the same time, there is a lot of respect for (me) and my values.”
The next Ontario election has to be held by June of next year.
There’s more reaction this week to the latest developments on Bill 10 in Alberta. That’s the law that mandates the creation of so-called gay-straight alliance clubs in all schools in the province if children ask for them. A few weeks ago, Education Minister David Eggen conceded that the issue was “legally complicated.” The comment came in connection with a report he received on what to do about two small Baptist schools near Edmonton, who have announced they will be openly defying that new law.
Donna Trimble with Parents for Choice in Education says the minister’s statement isn’t surprising. “I’m fairly certain that Minister Eggen has been informed that if he challenges these two small Baptist schools on the fact that they do not feel comfortable integrating a queer-straight alliance in their school – because it contradicts their religious freedoms – that he’s going to have a Constitutional battle on his hands.”
Trimble says this proves the point that her group has been making all along. The law, she says, must be amended to “once again respect the natural authorities in the education system. So that would start with parents as the primary educators of their children; their right to be notified and informed of what’s happening with their children in school, followed by the ability of the administrations in the schools to provide the care to children needed… in a way that is appropriate for the foundations of the schools themselves.”
On the feature this week, a conversation with Doug Sharpe, the president of the Canada Family Action Council. We interviewed Doug after he spoke at an event in Victoria, sponsored by Freedom Defence Canada.
LN: The Canada Family Action Council has evolved somewhat since the days when it was organizing the “Defend Marriage” rallies during the debate over gay marriage. I’ve heard you speak publicly, and you talk about “a different approach” and the notion that continuing to do things the way we’ve always done them guarantees the same results, which are not necessarily that good. (You speak about) the difference between being reactive and being proactive. Talk about that a little bit.
DS: Certainly. Historically I guess what we could start with is that we all know there are elections. We elect our representatives, we send them to Ottawa in the expectation that they will represent us as constituents in our home ridings. There was a time, I believe, where you could – as issues came up in Parliament that would impact or affect you back in your home constituency – there was a time I believe where you could share your views with your Member of Parliament on these issues and you could actually influence their decisions based on sound logic. There was some ability to speak and offer up good arguments to supporting one position or another. But unfortunately (today) there seems to be greater influences bearing on our elected representatives at times than their constituents’ influence over them while they’re in Ottawa. So I’ve just come to the realization that more of an emphasis needs to be put on sending the right person to Ottawa, and I’m not dissing anybody that’s already there. I’ve got to be clear here. It’s a very tough job that they’ve got in Ottawa right now. You’ve got so much special interest that’s coming down on you. You’ve got people that are very loud, yelling in their ears. If a Member of Parliament dares to speak up in defense of views and values that perhaps aren’t as popular as others, he risks getting accosted or swarmed by people who are very aggressive. They’ve got a tough job.
But we just want to make sure that we’re sending people to Ottawa that have the personal character and the strength and the willingness to stand against those things. A classic example is Bill C-16. When I’m contacting Members of Parliament in Ottawa, and they’re telling me that they just think that this is not the hill to die on, and they’re gonna just hand it off to the Senate without a vote, that concerns me. I’m very concerned about the fact that more Parliamentarians didn’t just go absolutely nuts when it looked like that bill was going to be passing through their hands at second reading without any Committee hearings – without any kind of witnesses called – and then it went on to third reading and the vote was even a recorded vote, and it go passed off to the Senate. I was expecting an absolute uproar, but unfortunately, it looks like our Members of Parliament – on that vote in particular, or that opportunity in particular – passed, because they just didn’t have, I guess, the character or the backbone to stand up against it.
LN: How much of this has to do with party discipline and the whole notion that it’s being set up so adversarially in Parliament. If you don’t tow the party line, there’s all kinds of consequence.
DS: Al, I totally believe that. For years, I was very active in the Conservative Party of Canada, and there was a need – especially under this last Conservative government – they knew that there was a lot of people that were working against them. Obviously the media wasn’t going to give them any break, the Liberals and the NDP, every time they made even the slightest mistake they knew that that mistake would be amplified through the media. They needed to run a very tight ship, and I don’t blame them. I don’t blame them, because every time an opening comes for them to be attacked, it just seemed like it was so much more dramatic than it needed to be.
But party discipline is one thing, and I’m seeing that now obviously as well. We’ve got an interim leader right now, the party’s preparing for 2019, they’ve got a sort of a “don’t rock the boat” mentality when it comes to social policies and social issues. I understand it, because they really have a sound case; they really do have a sound platform to ride into the election on fiscal issues. We’ve got a Liberal government right now that is absolutely running amok. I mean, we’re going to be $90-billion dollars in debt by the time 2019 rolls around. They just want to fight that battle on fiscal platform items alone. I understand that. But there’s a whole bunch of Canadians who have social views and values that want to know that in the future of the Conservative Party of Canada especially, that they have representatives that are actually, truly going to represent their views and values when they’re in Ottawa.
LN: So you talk about the candidate selection process, and I don’t know how “down in the weeds” you’re going to get in terms of issues. I mean, I know Alissa Golob and the Right Now people are really banging the drum for pro-life candidates. That’s their defining issue. Is that the approach that your group wants to take, or is it more sort of generic?
DS: Well, our approach has been – especially over the last six months – we’ve been focused on ah… first off, we wanted to define our constituency. We think it’s important to make a case to politicians – to federal politicians especially – that we are a constituency here in Canada, and we deal specifically with Christian conservatives – people who identify as Christian conservatives – people from the faith community who are conservatives, and we just want to define that constituency and make sure that politicians know that we are here and we do want to be represented. Secondly, over the last six months we’ve spent some time asking that community to communicate to us what it is that they felt was important, so that we could then share it with the candidates that are coming forward on the road ahead.
Right now we have 14 candidates running for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada, and we’re actively working to share the input that we’ve secured from the faith community with them, and encouraging them to apply or adopt those ideas into their platforms. Now, not all of them are interested in even talking about those things right now, but the ones that are? I think they’re going to do very well with our community.
LN: It’s interesting. You say you did a survey. What was the number one issue that came up?
DS: We got some great feedback from everybody, but the one thing that rang true more and more out of all of the items that came up was parental rights. And specifically, a parent’s right to raise their children the way they want. Parents really, really passionately want to have the freedom to be able to raise their kids with the same kind of moral and social and religious awareness that they have. They want to raise their kids and be free to do that without interference from the State.
LN: Let’s look ahead 10 years. What’s the future of – for lack of a better description – the “social conservative” movement given everything that’s been going on on the transgender front and a whole bunch of other issues?
DS: Well I’m excited about the future because there’s a lot of new people joining the party. There’s a reinvigorated group of youth and young adults. There’s a lot of people with competing ideas joining the party, but I really think that the new people that are joining – the younger people that are joining the party – are not going to put up with getting shouted down. They’re not going to put up with not having an opportunity to contribute their views to the conversation. And so I think it’s some really happy warriors- and I hate to use that word ’cause it’s so popular these days – but there’s some real fresh new faces and happy warriors joining the team, and I think they’re going to have a great influence on the road ahead.